The Galtees are the highest inland mountain range in Ireland, and can be seen from afar as you travel between Cork and Dublin. The range seems to suddenly rise up from the surrounding plains, from almost sea level to just over 900-metres high. The highest mountain is Galtymore (elevation : 919m), which is Ireland's 14th highest, and just manages to make the list of 'furths'. The hike up to the Galtees will reward you with superb views of the plains of County Tipperary and County Limerick, as well as wooded foothills that are flanked by crystal-clear streams, open moorland, and corrie lakes that are nestled underneath the peaks.
The sun had come through in the end and had lifted the heavy, low-lying mist that had hugged the base of the mountains early that morning. I left the carpark just after 09:00, with the sun bright and strong, and the birds actively twittering away. The road led north towards King's Yard, which was just over a kilometre away, and ran parallel to the Funshion River. The road also passes large pastures of grazing sheep on the right on its way to King's Yard.
The dried-up river bed eventually led to the edge of moorland that covered rolling hills as far as my eyes could see. A fence separated the forest from the moorland, and after unsuccessfully searching for a gate, I had to resort to just climbing over it. I decided to head straight for the Galtyway climb route just in case any landowners had an issue with my presence, so I took a compass bearing and made my way north-east.
The land was primarily upland blanket bog, an ecosystem that is relatively rare around the world, and was covered with almost knee-high mountain grass and smatterings of Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris). The hill of Knockeenatoung (elevation : 654m) lay on my right, and sheep were scattered around the peat hag-marred landscape. Peat hags occur when water flows down into peat or when overgrazing from domestic livestock exposes the surface of the peat. Once exposed in this manner, the peat then becomes more prone to further erosion which ends up digging it deeper and deeper, oftentimes resulting in overhanging vegetation. Vegetation can't establish itself on peat hags due to the sheer instability of the peat, and as such is unable to help the landform recover.
I joined up with the Galtyway climb route soon after, managing to merge with it just as it swung around to the right. The path continued up the slopes of the hill with brilliant views opening up to the east, until it met with a huge cairn that was located right smack in the middle of the path. Further on, the path led north-west towards the shoulder between the two Galtee peaks, so I decided to bush-bash straight on and directly towards the peak of Galtybeg (elevation : 799m) instead.
Aside from the astounding views, two other things greeted me as I reached the summit: a fierce wind that made me brace myself, and a field of conglomerate rock boulders. The Galtees are primarily made out of red sandstone, and their rounded summits were formed because they used to be peaks that lay above the glaciers, referred to as 'nunataks', millions of years ago. The thawing and freezing cycles eventually caused the summits to wear down to what they are today. There are several other indications of glacial action right next to the peaks, namely the cirques which now exist as corrie lakes, as well as the steep cliffs that drop down for hundreds of metres from Galtymore's peak.
I was forced to bring down my (already struggling) Mavic in a hurry after a pair of ravens (Corvus corax) appeared and immediately began a series of mock attacks and aerial bombardments. Ravens tend to be fiercely territorial, and are known to vigorously defend their territory!
After packing away my drone, I began to walk westward towards Galtymore. The badly-eroded path dropped down the slopes to the shoulder and past severe cases of peat hag. I had to take care at certain sections as the ground would suddenly become extremely boggy. Just ahead, cliffs could be seen plunging hundreds of metres down and into the lake of Lough Dineen down below. Before I knew it, I found myself climbing back up the slopes once again, walking along the channels, or 'groughs', that had been left by the peat hags. I went over to the side and peered down carefully at the lake down below me. The sight of the huge drop quickly sobered me up, and I was met with the realization that I was completely alone up here.
The county border follows the trail up to the peak of Galtymore (elevation : 919m), which means that you are on the highest point of two counties at the same time (which, in hindsight, is not all too uncommon especially for peaks in Malaysia). The summit itself was very wide, and quite unlike its subsidiary peak, Galtybeg. Galtymore's summit was, in essence, a plateau (named Dawson's Table after its historical landowners) that was separated by two cairns--the eastern one marking the true summit of Galtymore. Once again, the winds here were incredible, and the ravens had returned and were looking for that noisy, buzzing, invasive species that they had managed to frighten away earlier. I then made my way down the other side of the mountain after having a quick look at the celtic cross that lay on the edge of the summit.
The trail dropped down to the shoulder between Galtymore and Slievecushnabinnia, and continued to follow the county borderline. This was where the stone wall began. The wall was strangely incongruous way up here in the mountains, and the sheer length of it (it stretches on for several kilometres!) made me wonder how many people were involved building it, as well as why it was ever built in the first place. Nevertheless, I figured that it would come in handy both as a shelter of sorts to escape the biting wind, as well as a guide that one could follow for navigation--a 'handrail' if you will.
The wall swung towards the indiscernible peak of Slievecushnabinnia (elevation : 775m) and passed the large lake of Lough Curra, the highest lake in the Galtees. Shortly after, the wall turned westwards and past the peak cairn at the 8.5km mark. It then departed from the county borderline, as the latter suddenly swung northwards instead. I was now walking in County Limerick, and past large numbers of sheep (Ovis aries) as they dotted the slopes in front of me. I ended up walking past the summit of Carrignabinnia (elevation : 823m) without realising it, as the summit was not discernible and the marker lay on the other side of the wall and out of sight. The peak of Lyracappul (elevation : 825m), which means 'confluence of the horse', lay shortly after that.
The range seemed to taper off after Lyracappul, so I turned south and made my way down the slopes. Instead of following the Knockaterriff ridge, which was just a piece of high ground on the ridge that led south to the summit of Knockaterriff (elevation : 692m), I dropped down into the valley, before joining the river that flowed towards the parish of Templemichael.
The initial plan had been to walk a distance of one kilometre on the main road before turning left into the small Carrigeen roads and the Attrychraan Loop. The loop would then ultimately end up at the Galtee Castle. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the actual turnoff (that was actually located at 52.327614, -8.198676) as they all looked like they were on private property. I instead decided to just walk 5 kilometres along the never-ending roads that I knew would get me back to the castle carpark."Saol fada chugat!"